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Monday, August 1, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Release Date: 7-29-2011)

        My, oh, my, how the times have changed. A few short years ago, Summer laughers were all about Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and, most emblematically, Will Ferrell. They were stocked with randomness and gross-out gags, and though sexual allusion was already all the rage back then, no One could have forecasted the type of complete take-over that R-Rated comedies have enjoyed over the last few years. Since the start of May, there have literally only been Two PG-13 Rated Comedies launched into wide-release (Something Borrowed and Larry Crowne), garnering a collective 74 Million Dollars between them, decidedly less than Harry Potter made on its first day of release. What sets Crazy, Stupid, Love. apart from its brethren, however, is the fact that it hasn't been destined for failure from the start. Not only is the movie not treating has-beens as headliners (Sorry Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts... it's just true), but, after leading Dan in Real Life and Date Night to respectable grosses, CSL star Steve Carell seems to be the only man in Hollywood who still likes making this kind of fare. Add in a knock-out supporting cast, and you have Hollywood's best and only hope at re-establishing PG-13 Comedies as profitable enterprises.

        Carell stars as Cal Weaver, a devoted husband and father of Three who, as the movie opens, is being divorced by his High School sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore). Falling immediately into a pit of despair, Cal begins to spend his time at a local singles bar, sipping Vodka-Crans and shouting about his personal business for all to hear as though he's, 'that crazy guy from the bus stop.' Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a real man's man with an unquenchable thirst for female bedfellows and GQ-style fashion. He offers to help Cal re-build his self-image, starting with wardrobe, and ending with self-defeating nature. Throw in the Weaver's exposition-loving, self-agrandizing son Robby (Jonah Bobo), the babysitter who serves as the apple of Robby's eye, and who happens to harbor a certain crush of her own (Analeigh Tipton), and, finally, the One girl that Jacob just can't seem to lead to bed (Emma Stone), and you've got One messy, intriguing, multi-generational cast.

        There are a number of things that I could and will say about Crazy, Stupid, Love., but above all else, it simply must be noted that the movie is waaay too long. Wrapping up just a hair short of the Two hour mark, CSL appears to find nothing wrong with revisiting what are essentially the same scenes over and over again, severely dulling their impact. I wouldn't be the least surprised if the movie could shave a whole 30 minutes and be the better for it. And while we're discussing the lesser aspects of the flick, I'd might as well also add that the thing is a surprisingly laugh-less affair, tickling often but only rarely earning an audible chuckle. Perhaps that's the penalty for not adhering to the modern cinematic edict that shock is the only effective way of earning a knee-slapper, but it is how it is. The film also slips into complete convention on a few occasions, but in a movie like this, I can't help but think that's par for the course.

        Alright, got that all out of the way. Now to the good parts: Directing team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who's 2010 feature debut I Love You, Phillip Morris was a tonal mess that showed promise, display some real flare behind the camera. Far and away One of the more stylish mainstream releases of 2011 thus far, the pair make the gorgeous (and increasingly rare) decision to shot the movie on actual film (as opposed to digitally), giving it a rich, handsome, 70's reminiscent texture. The music, as provided by Christophe Beck and Nick Urata, matches this aesthetic, as do Andrew Dunn's clever camera movements. But the film's use of yesteryear visuals is more than just an exercise: Crazy, Stupid, Love. is like One of those olden flicks in the sense that it's willing to gamble with losing audience sympathy in order to tell the story it wants to. Certain relationships are damaged within the course of the film that will likely never fully recover, and the way that Ficarra and Requa slip small moments of absurdist humor into the movie's real-world trappings is inspired.

        As was the case with Phillip Morris, Ficarra's and Requa's greatest strength here is their rapport with their actors. Carell seems genuinely wounded, his misery only rarely played for laughs. His chemistry with Moore is natural and free-flowing, like you would imagine a married couple of 25 years to be. Gosling makes for quite the comic scoundrel, and his paring with Stone, both verbally and physically, is probably the best thing that the movie has going for it. Their most extended sequence together is the movie's most charming, immediate moment, and it's hard not to wish for more when it's over. Much like the title suggests, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is kind of a mess, a mess that has no pity for how tired butts get of sitting in theater chairs after a while, but it also can boast of charms aplenty, its odd spirit endearing it to me more than any other comedy this Summer not named Bridesmaids. Long live the PG-13 Comedy!

Grade: B


  1. I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed this movie. Then again, I'm a big fan of Ryan Gosling.

  2. Actually, more people than should be. I told some people at work that I thought he was one of the better actors working today. They laughed at me.

  3. That's because all of his best performances have been in movies that no one has seen. The movies that contained his Four Award Nominated performances (The Believer, Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, and Blue Valentine) made a COLLECTIVE 18.7 million at the box office, less than Crazy, Stupid, Love. made on it's opening weekend. Public opinion will change this year when he has Two high-profile Oscar-y movies coming out into somewhat wider release (Drive and The Ides of March). Those laughers will soon be eating their words.

  4. I know, I know. I have never actually seen Half Nelson or The Believer (which I didn't even know he was in). I might have to watch Half Nelson tonight (on Netflix). He sold me in The United States of Leland originally, but then he's in Fracture, Lars and the Real Girl, and then Blue Valentine (he was robbed of an Oscar). This guy's amazing. He even sold me on a Nicolas Sparks movie.